In tonight’s episode of “What can I be offended about?”
Having a name butchered happens beyond coffee shops. This same anxiety peeks its head in the workplace, the classroom and many other aspects of life.
In this episode of RadioActive Youth Media, hosts Zuheera Ali and Keya Roy talk to author Ijeoma Oluo and each other about their experiences living in the United States with “difficult” names. They also talk to Rita Kohli, a professor at University of California, Riverside who has done research on the effects of mispronouncing names on students of color.
This seems to be a podcast where two teens apparently feel their emotional well being is under assault because the local barista cannot pronounce their not-ordinary first name properly.
There are over 6,000 languages in the world with 195 countries. That is a bunch of names in different pronunciations that there is no way anybody in the world can get right at first try. Yet Need-To-Be-Butthurt girls complain some minimum wage barista ought to get right from the get-go.
Fortunately, we have somebody nearby with a foreign and/or weird sounding name to use as example: me.
Now, when I came to the US way back in the age of MTV actually playing music videos, my name was not very well-known and I heard it pronounced in a bunch of “wrong” ways like Mee-Ghoul, May-GU-El, Migel (Like Nigel) and others I can’t remember. Was I insulted because my names was not being said right? No, because I was having issues myself with some names in English that I had not heard before and I was doing a Freddy Krueger on them. Do you know how hard was for me to properly say Beau? And when I finally get it right, I find out there is the name Bo? And they it may come from Beaufort or Beauregard which are not easy for a Spanish Speaker to pronounce also?
Here is the funny thing. Back there when you mispronounced a name, there was no insult taken but a polite correction was issued because the other person would understand that it was simply a mistake of ignorance, not a racist taunt. My roommate, also a Hispanic, was called Elias which in Spanish is pronounced Eh-lee-ass. But he took a shine to the way it was pronounced in English and did not mind it at all being addressed that way. In my case, people tried to call me Michael, Mike and all the variations, for some reason, even when I did not mind at all, my brain never processed the fact that somebody was addressing me so I was adressed as Miguel or nicknames and adjecives not to be used in polite company.
Uncommon names are hard to initially process, To ignore that is to be a stuck up asshole. and to claim that mispronouncing them is racist, is possibly the dumbest stuff I read this morning. Thanks to Movies and TV, the name John is not unusual in Spanish-speaking countries and you will get an accented version of the name. But something like Jebediah? At best it would be something like Yevedalla (Je as in he-he, Ve as in vertical, Da as in daddy and Ya as in yard) on a good day. On a bad name, people will just blink and call you Gringo.
PS: I used to pronounce Beau as Ve(as in vertical)-Ah- U(nion). I figure I was not shot on sight because they Non-Gringo was having issues with the language. 😀
UPDATE: J.Kb. sent me this video about the racist hardships of name mispronunciation. The struggle is real.